How to properly water a tree

Don Gardner |

Photo of Don Gardner courtesy of Central Texas Gardener.

It’s finally tree-planting season, and we headed out to the Natural Gardener to replenish our sprinkler inventory. The Hill Country sun is tough on plastic.

When were told which model arborist Don Gardner recommends, were were sold. Don is our go-to arborist: he’s worked with us at the ranch and in the city for more than a decade now. Most recently, he counseled us on how to protect our trees during a sewer replacement. I love Don, such a mensch!

(He’s strictly a consulting arborist these days, which means he only advises. You know you’ll get the best, disinterested advice from someone who doesn’t also want to sell you his services.)

We were then handed a great handout at the Natural Gardener, “Don Gardner’s Watering Guidelines for Trees.” I thought I’d share some of his tips:

  1.  Don recommends  a small, round, flat sprinkler: it’s metal, about six inches in diameter, with one hole that sprays a cone-shaped fountain up in the air.
  2. Set the sprinkler to low-flow, so that the droplets are visible. Avoid turning the flow too high, because this creates a mist that evaporates quickly.
  3. The goal is even moisture. Bubblers, hose-end soakers, and soaker hoses may reduce evaporation, but they don’t distribute the water evenly over the root system.
  4. During very hot, dry weather, a thick layer of mulch can intercept most of the water before it reaches the ground. Old mulches can get crusty and even repel water. Break up the surface of the mulch or increase the water.
  5. Two inches of mulch is optimal for newly planted trees.
  6. Mature trees with mulch under them are more water-efficient than trees under-planted with grass.

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